First Triumph vs. MAC Champ:
October 28, 1972 - Northern Illinois earned a milestone "W"-its first vs. a Mid-Am grid champ-and corralled Kent State University's famous "James Gang" by a 28-7 margin at Huskie Stadium. Coach Jerry Ippoliti's squad rolled up a (then) school-record 475 yards rushing and 78 team carries vs. the 1972 MAC kingpin and Tangerine Bowl-bound Golden Flashes. QB Mark Carlson led the way for Northern Illinois with 224 yards total offense (158 rushing and two touchdowns) and junior FB Mark Kellar piled up 146 more ground yards. All-MAC LB Jack Lambert posted a game-high 22 tackles for KSU boss Don James.
Joining the Mid-Am:
March 7, 1973 - In a major press conference in downtown Chicago at the Bismarck Hotel, Northern Illinois became the ninth member of the Mid-Am. "Northern's program has come on strong," MAC commissioner Fred Jacoby told the Chicago Tribune. "Our presidents expressed a desire to become more of a sectional conference than an Ohio-Michigan conference. We feel the entrance of Northern adds an extra dimension to our league with its geographical location. It gives us a truly midwestern flavor."
First MAC Player of the Week:
October 20, 1973 - Northern Illinois senior FB Mark Kellar-who would win the NCAA rushing title that fall-garnered the first of back-to-back MAC Player of the Week honors with his 199-yard effort in a 45-17 triumph over Ball State University in Huskie Stadium. Kellar repeated as MAC Player of the Week with a career-high 246 yards and three TDs the next week vs. Illinois State.
Bob Gregolunas, LB
September 27, 1975 - On a sunny afternoon at Waldo Stadium, Northern Illinois made its official MAC football debut under head coach Jerry Ippoliti with a 20-0 victory over Western Michigan University. RB Vince Smith (two touchdowns) and PK Pete Miskov (two field goals and two PAT kicks) provided all the Huskie points. NIU posted its first shutout in 55 games (since 1970) and limited the hosts to 221 yards total offense behind LB Bob Gregolunas (22 tackles) and DT Jerry Meyers (20 stops).
First Home MAC Game:
October 4, 1975 - Tangerine Bowl, anyone? Northern Illinois took advantage of five turnovers-scoring on four-and moved to 2-0 in the MAC by winning its first league contest in DeKalb with a 38-15 triumph over Kent State University. The hosts broke open a 10-7 game with 21 unanswered points in the third period-capped by senior LB Bob Gregolunas' 14-yard interception return TD with 8:50 to play in the final quarter and his game-best 19 tackles.
First All-MAC Gridder:
November 26, 1975 - What a break-out senior year for Northern Illinois QB-turned-LB Bob Gregolunas. Switched to defense the previous spring, the six-foot, 205-pound quad-captain became the Huskies' initial First-Team All-MAC gridder. No. 11 notched eight double-digit hit outings and led the team with 127 tackles in nine games that fall.
First Frosh 1,000-Yard Rusher:
November 19, 1977 - By rushing for a (then) school-record 254 yards in the season finale vs. Ohio University, Northern Illinois freshman TB Allen Ross really made a name for himself. Not only did the 5-foot-10, 193-pounder make Mid-Am Player of the Week, AP National Back of the Week, and the UPI National Backfield of the Week, Ross became the school's and league's first frosh 1,000-yard single-season runner (1,043 in 273 attempts). At the time, Ross was only the sixth NCAA Division 1-A frosh to reach 1,000 yards.
MAC Tackle Record:
September 16, 1978 - One of the most durable linebackers in MAC history, Northern Illinois junior Frank Lewandoski set the school and league single-game tackle record with an amazing 33 stops during a 44-30 setback vs. Western Michigan University in Huskie Stadium. "Lew" shadowed Bronco great Jerome Persell (39 carries for 205 yards) and posted 16 solos and 17 assists. Lewandoski finished with 616 career tackles, which ranks among the MAC's all-time top five.
First NCAA Catch King:
December 6, 1978 - Few players could latch onto passes like Northern Illinois senior SE Dave Petzke who not only established school and Mid-Am single-season records with 91 catches, 1,215 reception yards, and 11 TDs but also won the league's first NCAA 1-A receiving title that fall. In fact-at the time-among the NCAA's major individual offensive stats categories (rushing, receiving, total offense, and scoring), Petzke's was only the second national title won by a MAC player (Toledo QB Gene Swick led the nation in total offense in 1975).
Dave Petzke, SE
First MAC Player of the Year:
December 12, 1978 - "Wow!" That was the reaction of Northern Illinois SE Dave Petzke upon hearing the news that he shared the MAC Offensive Player of the Year award with Western Michigan TB Jerome Persell. Petzke, NIU's first Mid-Am Player of the Year, started a string of three straight Huskie loop Player of the Year recipients-LB Frank Lewandoski (1979) and LB Mike Terna (1980).
First Vern Smith Award Winner:
December 1, 1983 - "I never expected to be the MVP of our team, now this." Northern Illinois senior QB Tim Tyrrell was always modest to extremes. This time the spiritual guru of the Huskies' 9-2-0 league champs and soon-to-be Cal Bowl victors had been voted the recipient of the Jefferson Trophy (now the Vern Smith Award) as the MAC's "Most Outstanding Football Player." Tyrrell, the league's top all-around QB that season, produced 1,799 yards total offense in 1983.
MAC Coach of the Year:
November 21, 1983 - Since 1965 and the inception of the award, only one person-Bill Mallory-had won MAC Coach of the Year honors in football at two league schools. The 48-year-old Northern Illinois taskmaster received his first at Miami ten years earlier.